Did any of you read the feature in the New York Times or even on The Root where they interview Black Atheists? So far the interviews are pretty good. There are occasionally some bitter atheists but that’s bound to happen from time to time. The responses to the interviews, at least on the Root, are mildly predictable: People were miffed, mainly the Black Christians. They said the usual stuff: “Oh weknow the truth [that Christ is real and this person is really crazy].” “This is nonsense.”, “This person doesn’t have morals”, etc etc etc. Everything you can pretty much imagine a staunch Black Christian would say.
Words by Black Witch
First, some news on the book Black Witch: Life from a Black Pagan Perspective, Vol. 1: It's coming out on Feb 25, 2012. No more pussyfooting or anything, it will come out on that day and that's that. I will be posting pictures in the near future of the book as it is further and further in progress, possibly updating every Saturday to the Black Witch FB Fan Page. The book will be in hardbound and handmade by me. There will be extra content, a surprise at the back of the book. The price of the book will be $26.50 but for now, the price of $18 stands as it is the pre-order price. (I have got to revamp that page.) Yup yup. Watch the Ustream videofor more information.
Continuing on with this week's column:
Now, why is this so important that a Black Atheist was interviewed noteworthy on a Pagan site? Because it shows that Black culture is starting to expand even just a little bit to start including more Blacks. Black culture, thanks to poor representation in media and to important historical periods, work in a pretty narrow scope. Blackness is supposed to be urban, Christian, conservative, preferably male and self-aware accurate cultural history optional. This is not actual Blackness because I’m Black and while I was raised in the inner city, I am not Christian, I am fairly alternative, I am not male and I am very big on actually accurate (read: not gender-wiped, white-washed or wrapped in nonsense) cultural history. I don’t think that displayed Blackness is the definition of true Blackness and it needs to be widened beyond the Christian foundation of Black culture. It is indeed useful in that the history of Black religious culture and the role Christianity has played in it, that goes without saying, but to assume that all Blacks are either Christians or “confused about who they are (code: They think they're White)” is pretty damaging to the racial “solidarity” I hear so much about but don’t see much of.
Racial solidarity is pretty important. It establishes a basic culture that everyone can relate to and learn from because America certainly won’t do it. In a country that is not at all post-racial and just as prejudiced as always, just without the overt displays such as lynching, it is important that culture of any minority is preserved to the best of its abilities. The average American culture is pretty much White culture on a loudspeaker with little dashes and stirs of minorities just so people can say “Oh, it’s not bigoted; I can see an Asian person!” There’s very little room to express any other culture without some random White person squealing about how this isn’t needed, we have a Black president, they have a Black friend and there has been at least one Black person on their TV (that was most likely a secondary character or an extra), Will Smith has starred in a movie in the past two years and Tyler Perry makes movies so all is spiffy, right?
Wroooooooong. So dead wrong.
There’s so many issues within Black Culture that never gets covered in mainstream media because it is considered “not important”. That’s nonsense because I think if the TV was more diverse, that would probably help out a few issues in this country. The issues in Black culture are important and unique to our culture just like any culture because of our history and how we have interacted with it. Every culture does have its issues but the only way we can solve them is by not ignoring them and catering only to the center, the mainstream within that culture. Just like it is important for mainstream American culture to portray true diverse American culture (and fails to), it is important for Black culture – and any minority culture – to portray true Black culture in all of its vastness.
It shouldn’t have to be said, Black culture is not monolithic. Black People are not monolithic. We are way more than the minstrel depictions and plot hinges on television, in games and in movies. And not only should American culture acknowledge and welcome that, so should Black culture itself.
I think that for the safety of everyone and for the expansion of the race, I think that we should move away from the religiosity of Christianity. I’m not saying bomb Churches and institute a new religion to shape our culture around. No, instead just allow more freedom for Blacks of different religions to have an equal place at the table. Something that, if the Black Christians would have felt it, there would be no end to the discussion of it and it probably would look a little something like this: “Attack on Christianity”, “Have Black People Lost Their Way”, radio shows, talk segments on BET or WorldStar Hip Hop, etc etc etc. It would be everywhere.
It’s okay to have Black Christians but it is important that the culture that they, me and other Blacks reside in doesn’t cater to only them. Just like Paganism, Islam, Judaism, Atheism and other belief systems (would have said religion but atheism doesn’t count), Christianity should be open to criticism. Right now, in Black culture, the idea of Christianity, unlike any other religion, enjoys the ability of being impervious. Black Christians will attack each other all day, all week, assuming every Black Christian they meet is breaking every rule in the Bible at breakneck speed or they themselves will flag out what sins they’re committing while saying “Jesus loves me and forgives me” in the same breath but no one dare attack the religion. The religion is considered gold; the Bible is taken as law and above critique supposedly. But every other religion (or lack thereof) that a Black person could follow isn’t. Christianity should be allowed to be picked apart and its own cultural relations again and again just like any other religion. My religion gets picked apart, my Muslim friends’ religion gets picked apart, Black Christians should not be so invulnerable. I’m not saying destroy the religion but examine it.
Christianity, in Black culture, serves as a security blanket, I am sure. It’s the most unifying thing the culture relies on to connect to others with to the point every Black person is pretty much raised as cultural Christians: even if a Black person doesn’t practice Christianity and never has, it does not mean they don’t know what Christianity is, what the basic stories are from the Bible, the different psalms and spirituals, etc etc. Take Lupe Fiasco for example. To strip him down to a normal person so readers can fully understand and relate: Wasalu Jaco.
Okay then. Wasalu was a born and raised Muslim. However, even growing up, his dad took him to various houses of worship besides the mosque and churches were one of them. It does show because once when spoken to via phone interview some odd years ago, he was talking about death or infallibility, I forgot which, but he referenced Christ and he said, “oh, but He’s coming back.” This stuck out to me because some people didn’t know that this person was Muslim. Ask any of the listeners of that interview and they would have sworn up and down that Wasalu was Christian. The only religious mention that he made was of the Christian rhetoric and sounds as if he was beyond a casual observer of the religion but an actual believer of it because he acknowledged that Christ was coming back and sounded certain about it. It would take a close look at Wasalu to find his actual religious practice (in other words, you’d have to be a fan or read a thorough bio) but so long Wasalu made no mention of it, everyone assumed he was Christian just like everyone else. It didn’t even have to be the interview to solidify those beliefs. There’s the mention of Lord several time in his music, which people would assume it is a reference to Jesus Christ. Plus, there’s little no overt mention of Allah or anything of the Muslim faith, nada, until recent.
Now, returning Wasalu back to Lupe Fiasco and him telling people that he’s Muslim, here comes the surprise – and disdain. Some people don’t mind, Lupe is simply joining the ranks with Busta Rhymes, Mos Def and other emcees that are Muslim. Some were completely surprised because, hey, this is a trick! There were actual responses of people whose disbelief ran along the lines of “This Muslim tricked me into buying an album and making me think he was a normal rapper! Why isn’t he Christian! Now he’s going to talk about Allah and crap!” Yep. Thankfully, since Lupe actually knows how to rap and make sense at the same time, he doesn’t have to worry of his fan base deflating much because some people want to now call him a terrorist. Plus, he has a solid Muslim fan base, always good to have a niche to keep you up and going.
I know that this probably was a little confusing so here’s another: Janelle Monae’s The Archandroid. Apparently, some people believe that it is a gospel album (despite very little reference to Christian ideology – unless the Androids are assumed to be Christian, which wouldn’t make a lot of sense). That’s great and a complement for Janelle Monae, she certainly took it as one and rightfully so, but to anyone who wanted to enjoy The Archandroid for what it is, it certainly douses it because it’s as if Black Christians are going “Firsts!” and trying to stamp their beliefs on it, even when there is barely a hinge to hang from. I took it as a story of star-crossed lovers and an android being persecuted for it because it’s against the rules for humans and androids to date and even more illegal for androids to have human-like emotions so double whammy for Cindy Mayweather. Where you can stamp the album as Christian, I don’t really know but hey, since someone stamped it as Christian, can I stamp it as Pagan? I’m pretty sure with an hour and a couple world mythology books, I can spin some connection together instead of, y’know, taking the story for what it is and letting it stand on its own merit. If The Archandroid was a gospel, an honest gospel, I would become a cautious listener. I wanted to hear a cool story, not another revamp of the Bible incarnate. I’m a big P.O.D. fan I am but even they know how to ease up on the Bible-thumping and just express themselves in earnest, and their music has overtChristian expressions! I understand that Janelle Monae definitely is hard to pin down genre-wise, I like to think of her as genre-less, simply as “good music” and “one of the few remaining signs of real Black music remaining”, but gospel? Just buy a Mary Mary cd and don’t ruin the fun for everyone.
Black culture should be able to exist without Christianity as the home base (at least I can enjoy a Wondaland album in peace) and on a more equal footing instead one religion being the pinnacle and the rest are subordinates.
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